Elucidation of in Vitro Chlorinated Tyrosine Adducts in Blood Plasma as Selective Biomarkers of Chlorine Exposure

de Bruin-Hoegée, Mirjam, et al. “Elucidation of in Vitro Chlorinated Tyrosine Adducts in Blood Plasma as Selective Biomarkers of Chlorine Exposure.” Chemical Research in Toxicology (2022). https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.chemrestox.2c00053


Chlorine is a widely available industrial chemical and involved in a substantial number of cases of poisoning. It has also been used as a chemical warfare agent in military conflicts. To enable forensic verification, the persistent biomarkers 3-chlorotyrosine and 3,5-dichlorotyrosine in biomedical samples could be detected. An important shortfall of these biomarkers, however, is the relatively high incidence of elevated levels of chlorinated tyrosine residues in individuals with inflammatory diseases who have not been exposed to chlorine. Therefore, more reliable biomarkers are necessary to distinguish between endogenous formation and exogeneous exposure. The present study aims to develop a novel diagnostic tool for identifying site-specific chlorinated peptides as a more unambiguous indicator of exogeneous chlorine exposure. Human blood plasma was exposed in vitro to various chlorine concentrations, and the plasma proteins were subsequently digested by pronase, trypsin, or pepsin. After sample preparation, the digests were analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) and liquid chromatography high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LC–HRMS/MS). In line with other studies, low levels of 3-chlorotyrosine and 3,5-dichlorotyrosine were found in blank plasma samples in this study. Therefore, 50 site-specific biomarkers were identified, which could be used as more unambiguous biomarkers for chlorine exposure. Chlorination of the peptides TY*ETTLEK, Y*KPGQTVK, Y*QQKPGQAPR, HY*EGSTVPEK, and Y*LY*EIAR could already be detected at moderate in vitro chlorine exposure levels. In addition, the latter two peptides were found to have dichlorinated fragments. Especially, Y*LY*EIAR, with a distinct chlorination pattern in the MS spectra, could potentially be used to differentiate exogeneous exposure from endogenous causes as other studies reported that this part of human serum albumin is nitrated rather than chlorinated under physiological conditions. In conclusion, trypsin digestion combined with high-resolution MS analysis of chlorinated peptides could constitute a valuable technique for the forensic verification of exposure to chlorine.